Libya's coast guard has intercepted 280 migrants on five boats on their journey to Europe. They are now due to be sent back to their respective countries of origins.
The migrants were found on four wooden boats and an inflatable dinghy, attempting to cross the Mediterranean in a bid to reach Europe.
"A Libyan coast guard patrol boat rescued 280 migrants of various African nationalities" on Tuesday, the Libyan coast guard said in a statement, cited by news agency AFP.
The migrants were reportedly taken to Libya's western port of Zuwarah, located near the Tunisian border, and were handed over to the interior ministry there for repatriation purposes.
However, many thousands of migrants remain stranded in Libya under difficult conditions, as repatriation efforts have practically come to a halt since the beginning of the COVID-19 health crisis: The International Organization of Migration (IOM) and Libyan authorities repatriated at least 91 migrants to Niger in a voluntary return flight on Wednesday.
The UNHCR also announced it had resumed evacuation flights, and that a plane with 172 asylum seekers had been flown from Libya to Niger on November 5.
Migrants in lawless territory
Libya has become the main port of departure for migrants in Africa even since the 2011 overthrow of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The European Union has been supporting Libyan border forces to try to stem migration to the bloc amid great controversy, following reports of inhumane conditions in the Libyan detention centers.
Rights groups have repeatedly reported instances of rape, torture, extortion, starvation and arbitrary killings from these centers. The security situation surrounding the detention centers is also a contested issue.
In October 2021, Libyan authorities arrested some 5,000 migrants during which one migrant was killed and 15 were wounded, according to the UN. Several days later, some 2,000 migrants escaped from a detention centre in the Libyan capital Tripoli, as guards shot dead six migrants, IOM said.